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Dealing With Detractors

January 6, 2013

The good news is that I have a very thick skin. I don’t need people to like me. And I can brush off the name calling. But the goal here isn’t to have enemies. The goal is to try and bring people around to a different way of thinking about food and restaurants.

When someone gets angry about something I did because they disagree with it, I think it can be a great opportunity. Let’s talk it out. I’ll listen to you and have a chance to share my side. I’m not trying to be a jerk on purpose. Sometimes things come out wrong or are taken the wrong way. Or occasionally I’ll leave out a critical piece of context.

I mention all of these things because after the Real Actors Read Yelp video was featured on Table Hopping, there seemed to be a referendum on my existence in the comments thread of the most read food blog in the region.

Here is what some of my detractors had to say and my responses:

Aaron was surprised by the tone of the review itself:
Frankly, I am surprised Mr. Fussy doesn’t carry his own silverware around with him. And to be fair, I like reading the Fussy Little Blog, but this review seems a bit over the top.

Part of the reason I don’t carry my own silverware around with me is that I look forward to seeing what each restaurant has in store. Silverware is important. And it’s one of those things that Cafe Capriccio gets wrong (but it’s been awhile since I’ve been, perhaps it’s better now).

But he’s right. This review was a bit over the top. And I was well aware of that as I was writing. The full review on Yelp even has a warning statement before I launch into the tirade about the spoon. I knew full well that there was no way of delivering this criticism without sounding like a “petulant primadonna.” Still, those spoons were so poorly designed, I couldn’t let it go.

uhhhh has a different read on what it means to have a review selected by RARY…
FINALLY this Daniel B. character gets his come-uppance. He is painful!
and aparently Roz does too
Gotta love Karma!

Wow. Maybe if I took myself more seriously I might feel a sense of shame, or perhaps that I was being mocked or humiliated. But I don’t. I’ve been a huge fan of these web videos since they started. And to have my words chosen by the producers, read by a talented actress, and bring joy and laughter to thousands is exceptionally gratifying.

Parma Ham has a good point about tone that I want to explain:
“I don’t live in Troy so I don’t need this place to succeed”. The arrogance. His review was meant as a joke right?

The intro to this review sounds bad. What’s missing in the video is the context of Yelp.com. At the time of the writing, Dante’s was enjoying a significant amount of rave reviews from people who were simply overjoyed just to have a place in Troy to hang out in the evening. It’s exactly this kind of blind and rabid local boosterism that I consider to be damaging to the region, and have tried to push hard against. My primary purpose in the opening line was to call attention to the fact that as a non-resident of Troy I could be a bit more objective. But it was also to call attention to those other high value reviews, and cast some doubt on their validity.

zack is mostly right, but his timing is a bit off:
At this point Daniel appears to completely own his self-titled “fussy” moniker

Yes, I completely own my “self-titled ‘fussy’ moniker”. But I owned it years ago when I started the blog. And really I’ve been owning it my whole life. I have some really strong and very specific food preferences, and I recall them going as far back as pre-school. It’s less that I own the moniker as much as it is that the moniker owns me.

I have the feeling that Miss Blankenship is being a bit sarcastic:
I love reading Daniel B’s reviews as amusing examples of food fetishism. And did you know he used to live in Northern California?

It seems like a long time since I’ve been accused of wanting the Capital Region to be a clone of the SF Bay Area. That’s not true. There is a lot about food around here that I have come to love. But that doesn’t mean that I think there are things here that couldn’t be improved.

Commenter has confounded me with a pejorative I don’t quite get:
This perfectly captures the douchbaggery that is TheFussyLittleBlog.
470 Yelp reviews? Are you kidding me? Get a job buddy!

I thought the douchebags were those frat-house jock guys who all dress the same and ironically watch my little pony videos. I thought they were the yang to the hipsters ying. How the video of one admittedly over the top review captures anything about the FLB is beyond me. Specific criticisms are generally more productive than broad swaths of hate.

But yes, I do have 470 Yelp reviews. That number should really be higher, but I’ve slowed down a lot in the last couple of years. In the past 12 months I only wrote 22. But I’ve been busy, what can I tell you.

Jane Doe has an interesting notion about life before the Internet:
Just think – before Yelp, Fussyboy would have to actually explain his little spoon problem face-to-face with the proprietor of Dante’s. And being that this establishment is located in Troy, we can assume he would have has his Fussy Little ass handed to him in true Collar City style. Sigh.

Really what probably would have happened is that I would have left and never returned again. Instead I provided a specific piece of constructive criticism. Afterwards the yogurt shop changed it’s spoons. Now, not only have I updated my review to reflect a more positive experience, but I’ve returned multiple times and am now the Duke of Dante’s on Yelp.

Victor Campana wants to confirm a bit of history.
Is this the guy that was so helpful, offering to tell everyone how to fill out their “Best Of” ballots, so we wouldn’t have to worry that the wrong places winning ?

Yes. Yes I am. And to a certain extent last year I succeeded and thankfully Subway lost its iron grip on being the “Best Sandwich in the Capital Region.” If you don’t think that was a case of the wrong place winning, we should have a longer talk.

Parma Ham linked to one of my reviews on Stewart’s and then asked this:
At what point in one’s day does this get written?

Writing is my leisure activity. It used to be video games. So now instead of staying up late at night fragging with people around the world via Xbox Live, I stay up late and fire off a post or a couple of reviews every now and again.

Grrrrrrrr may not have a future as a professional restaurant critic:
O.M.G! So the shape of the bowl in which the froyo is served is questioned as to how the spoon and froyo feels in his mouth? Effen ridonkydonk if you ask me.

Not ridonkydonk at all. Mouthfeel is important on a lot of levels. Textures play a keen role in the enjoyment of food, and that extends to the implements that we use at the table. A three-star Michelin restaurant isn’t going to put a fork on the table that has a bent tine, nor will they serve wine a glass with a thick rim.

Strick9 may not have actually seen The DIning Issue of the Albany Business Review:
The Albany Business Review is certainly going downhill if they are concerned with following influential “foodies” (I hate that term) like Mr. Fussy on the local restaurant scene and ranking them. Ridiculous – Are they still in high school or what?

There were no rankings in the “Foodies worth following online” feature. In fact the blurb describing the FLB was short and sweet, “Daniel Berman’s active little blog with the ambitious goal of raising the standards for the culinary scene in Albany.” But they nailed it.

Buck Peterman reconsidered the word douchebag and offered this to describe me instead:
Would pompous, self aggrandizing jerk, be a more appropriate description?

Yes, it would totally be more appropriate. But given that I don’t see myself in those terms, a few specific examples would go a long way to show me where you think I’ve crossed the line.

On this point though, I totally agree with Parma Ham:
You are concerned with how Daniel will feel when he reads things written about himself on the Internet? Do you know how many small business owners have had to read negative things that he’s written about them? I agree that businesses open themselves up to this kind of thing when they go into business but the same applies to those who choose to publicly blog/criticize.

For those who spoke up in my defense, I totally appreciate the fact that you’ve got my back. It’s great to have people sing your praises when others are calling you nasty names. But names don’t hurt me. I’ve echoed the sentiment before that those who live by the sword, die by the sword. I’m cool with that. If everybody agreed with everything I wrote, there wouldn’t be much point in putting in the effort.

Changing minds isn’t easy. I can’t say that I know how to do it, but I’m going to try my best. All the work hasn’t been in vain. I know that I’ve reached people and gotten them to care about food in a new way. Plus, I’m tenacious as hell. I have no plans to stop. And in some ways I feel like I’m just getting started. So watch out.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. January 6, 2013 10:52 am

    I think all of this comes down to tone and context. I feel I know you well enough outside Blogland to understand your tone and know when you are joking to some extent. But that video was taken at surface-level, and you are right, the comments before yours on Yelp helped validate your comment. That’s lost in the video. Snark without context is just plain mean. And I think that’s a lot of the problem here.

    I like what Jane Doe has to say (mostly). It’s true – people should come out from behind the cloak of the Internet and air their grievances in person. I don’t know if I would have written a Yelp review, but I know if the problem was that egregious, I would have contacted the management. I’m not saying you didn’t, just that it’s what I would have done.

    This is also why I don’t really “review” stuff on my blogs – I’m too much of a pussy. And unlike you, harsh comments do cut me (though I’m able to brush them off better more and more). I guess I’m just wimpy all over.

  2. January 6, 2013 12:48 pm

    Ha, I had a feeling you were going to respond to all of that…

    I will have to admit that very early in the history of the FLB I used to read your posts with a slightly raised eyebrow. But I get it now and always read with bemused enjoyment even if we don’t agree. The problem here is I don’t think a lot of these people have gone through the “Fussy Blog Acclimation Period,” i.e. they are looking at that video with only a cursory idea of what you are all about. I wouldn’t worry about it so much. Given the magical cloak of internet anonymity people are always at their worst.

    In any event, what is with everyone lately? I can kind of understand the vitriol directed at you as you self admittedly sort of invite it, but remember all the Albany Jane hate from the Cheryl Clark thing the other day? It seems the local internet food blog readers are all worked into a rabid froth and are looking for a target for their wrath. Even my usually placid self was throwing out some mean zingers about Cheryl Clark’s stupid turns of phrase in her Taiwan Noodle review.

    Much of this seems to be about who is or is not allowed to declare themselves and “expert” or an “authority.” People saying, “who do FussMaster/Albany Jane think they are?” etc… I believe that we are in the “every idiot has a forum” age and that is difficult for a lot of people to accept. I personally despise Yelp with every fiber of my being, but what is there to do? In yours and Albany Janes cases I believe that anyone who has been putting together coherent thoughts on a cogent theme for several years has earned the right to speak with somewhat of an “expert” tone. I liken what you all do to a public/civic service. Without all of the lovely, volunteer food writers out there we would be left with only reading C. Clark’s nonsense and that would be sad.

    I have garnered a relatively modest amount of hateful comments through the years but I kind of think that I tend to get off pretty lightly. This is also something that I find interesting/perplexing. Certain writing styles/personality types (like yours) seem to generate a lot of controversy and discussion. Others (like mine) generate nothing. I often get a little sad when I write what I think is a whizbanger of a post and then there is absolute silence in the comments… I think people read my posts sometimes, but I guess for whatever reason they don’t feel the need to engage in discussion with ol’ Mr. Dave. Perhaps I leave people seething in silent hatred? I don’t know…

    Anyhow, it is just interesting to look at what sorts of stuff instigates a reaction in the populous at large. Keep the chin up Mr. Fussy, I was plum tickled by the whole yelp thingy.

  3. christine permalink
    January 6, 2013 1:13 pm

    Mr. Dave- I am a reader of your blog and missed it when you took a break. I’m not sure why I don’t ever comment…So, please keep writing and I will keep reading. Maybe I’ll comment now that I know it makes you sad when there is silence.

    At least we all know up front that you are fussy… your name says it all. Do I think it is sometimes a little annoying? Yes, sometimes, because I am not such a fussy person when it comes to food. The spoon thing is something I can relate to, by the way. My local summer soft serve spot has had the most annoying plastic spoons for a few years now. I would end up with a cut on my upper lip every time I got a sundae! So, I either order a cone or I take my sundae to go and eat it at home with a regular spoon.

  4. January 6, 2013 1:46 pm

    Hah! I’d say what a great success to get such an overwhelming response, it means people are paying attention and thinking about it, whether their reaction is negative or not, they will continue to think about it. In the art criticism biz at least, it means you’re doing something right! Although I do understand your clarifying of “the goal isn’t to have enemies.” I can’t help but wonder about how social media “comments” sections (or any anonymous peer review for that matter) has the potential of being akin to blind road rage. What is it about the fact of being “anonymous” that makes people cease to treat others respectfully and make inconsiderate statements and ridiculous assumptions without basis, or hey even give so much as the benefit of the doubt… I don’t get it? Instead everyone gets their knickers in a knot and it turns it into a somewhat abusive and childish vent. Clearly people chose to take things out of context here, but why the automatic assumptions instead of trying to understand the bigger picture or at least do the research to back up your statements? It’s sad that it’s so much of a stretch to try and “get someone” despite the fact that we know how easily things can be taken out of context when written.

  5. January 6, 2013 5:24 pm

    Nicely said. It is my personal belief that anyone attempting to change the world cannot escape the pain felt by others, especially as it is flung like poo at those doing the changing. Rock it out Daniel B. and remember, no game was ever won by an armchair quarterback.

  6. PensiveEngineer permalink
    January 6, 2013 9:54 pm

    Keep it up Profussor, Albany, and apparently more so Troy, have been in the gastronomic dark ages for too long. It’s just reall hard to get some people to see the light. These people would wet themselves if a chik-fil-a came to this area. For the record I think chik-fil-a is terrible, both for food and for corporate morals.

  7. January 6, 2013 11:34 pm

    Love the Dante’s review, and love the actress’ reading of it. What is missed by the poo throwers is that both were probably turned out in the space of a few minutes. Extemporaneous riffing deserves a little tolerance just because of its spontaneous nature. Not like the heavy load of turning out a serious blog post every day, day after day.

    And, I caught your homage to Willie Pittman (nee Williepitt) with the double grammar faux pas above, “Afterwards the yogurt shop changed it’s spoons.” Good stuff!

    • January 6, 2013 11:41 pm

      Ah. You are too kind. I must confess. While I have a really thick skin, Mrs. Fussy does not. It would have made her intensely uncomfortable to copy edit today’s post, so I let her sit this one out. Obviously, with tragic results.

  8. January 7, 2013 2:22 am

    To steal from a Mastercard ad: the blog is fun to read, the Yelp review was classic, and having that review read by a real actor…Priceless. As far as I can tell, you are the only Yelp reviewer to embrace having their review read by an actor and I think that’s fantastic.

    Now that people everywhere are searching through Yelp reviews looking for something to be read by an actor, reviewers need to think twice before they post. You know how many reviews there are on Yelp? A shit-ton. There is zero room for error.

  9. January 7, 2013 6:32 am

    Daniel, I think that maybe the lesson here is that once you achieve a certain level of visibility people will start to notice (or envy) that prominence and start to give you a little grief. As Jon said above, your blog is fun to read, and I’d add that you’re always informative… I’ve learned a great deal over the two years (something like that?) I’ve been reading your posts. Please try not to worry about a few naysayers… hell, I don’t always agree with you, but I always respect your point of view.

  10. January 7, 2013 11:15 am

    I agree that knowing you in person really helps put what you write in context, because I can sense your tone. You are so very smiley and also so very serious. While some people are all, “This food was good, this food was bad,” you not only want our region’s restaurants to do better, but you are willing (and eager) to be part of helping them get there. You are not a jerk. Anyone who jumps all over you on Twitter (because I’m not much of an internet comment reader, besides DailyPuppy.com, land of happy comments) after a post loses a bit of my respect.

  11. January 7, 2013 12:06 pm

    Oh my God, seriously? You had to respond to every negative comment on someone else’s blog? You do NOT have “thick skin” if you feel the need to do that. Having thick skin would be to laugh it off and ignore the haters. You’re essentially feeding the trolls by posting this LONG ASS blog post. I’m a writer too so I know this wasn’t something you just jotted off in five minutes, I’ll bet an entire evening was spent writing this.

    I would look into getting your OCD/anal retentiveness professionally diagnosed.

    • wait...huh? permalink
      January 10, 2013 3:10 pm

      @Chad -hahaha YES.

      Seriously, the hell is wrong with you guy??

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